Smoky Chicken and Avocado Tostadas - Wahaca

Wahaca

6th December 2016 at 5.30pm

www.wahaca.co.uk/locations/edinburgh/

Wahaca opened up earlier in the year to much fanfare and queuing (albeit inside, waiting in the bar area). Now the dust has settled, no queuing was required for a table. The brainchild of Masterchef’s Thomasina Miers, Wahaca has become a runaway success.

We were seated in the upstairs area and had a friendly waitress who offered to go throuygh the menu with us but we declined as we thought it was quite clear. The menu offers street food type dishes, a bit like tapas, or more traditional ‘starters and mains’ type food. We both decided to get some dishes from the street food part of the menu. The recommendation is two to three dishes per person. I went for three and my friend went for two and a side. Similar to tapas, the dishes come out when they were ready.

My first dish was the chicken tingas tacos. These were grilled chicken thigh in a chipotle and tomato sauce. I like a soft tortilla, so these were great to roll up and munch on. The sauce was lovely and the chicken was moist. I then tucked into some chilli quesadilla. This consisted on onions, jalapeños and feta. The quesadilla was a more substantial dish, with the chillis hot and tingley and the cheese all gooey. Yum! My last dish was the prawn tacos. This wasn’t originally what I ordered as I had chosen the salmon sashimi tostadas but they were out of salmon, which was a shame but as the fish is fresh we’ll let them off. The prawn tacos were excellent though so it more than made up for it. The flavour was excellent and the guacamole and tomato salsa complimented it well. The topping of chipotle mayo finished it off nicely. My only complaint was that my plate was taken away before I realised that I actually still had some salsa left on it.

Sweet Potato - Wahaca

Sweet Potato – Wahaca

On the other side of the table the food was also going down really well. She said how full of flavour her dishes were. She had opted for the black bean and cheese quesadilla, the smoky chicken and avocado tostadas and a side of sweet potato chunks. For someone who doesn’t eat all her food normally, she cleared both the street food dishes and almost finished her sweet potato – a testament to how much she enjoyed the food.

We both finished the meal talking about bringing people to try the food, so we must have been suitably impressed. A gift to grow your own Christmas tree with the bill was a fun idea (although you can also pay the bill with an app for an express checkout).

Food – 8.5/10
Service – 8/10
Atmosphere- 8/10
Value – 8/10

Overall 32.5/40

Would I eat here again? Yup

Cost £35 for 4 street food dishes, one side, a beer and a margarita.

Las Iguanas

Las Iguanas

20th October 2016 5.30pm

www.iguanas.co.uk/locations/edinburgh

I’ll be honest with you, we were lured to Las Iguanas by the £3.90 all day every day cocktails. The food looked like a decent offering from the menu so we thought we’d give it a go. Situated on the corner of George Street and Charlotte Square, Las Iguanas is set on two floors with a spacious feel and retro furnishings. We got perusing the menus. They had a whole heap of menus, offering gluten free and vegan menus and also a shorter menu that covered up til 6.30pm. One of us ordered completely from the early menu and then the other two of us decided to do a mix and match between us, with me having a starter from the main menu and the main from the early menu and vice versa for my friend. So I went for the calamari followed by the blazing bird with BBQ jerk sauce, whilst my other friends went for the nachos and the moqueca de peixe and for the quesadilla and the South American torta. We obviously ordered our first round of cocktails too. Whilst there is an extensive drinks menu, there is still a fair bit of choice on the all day every day £3.90 cocktail section, with over 20 options. Every one we tried was really good.

So the starters arrived and whilst my calamari didn’t look overly exciting, it was actually some of the best calamari I’ve had as it was in a cayenne and cassava crumb, which gave it and exciting twist that I really enjoyed. The nachos were going down well and I have to say that it did look like a vibrant starter. The quesadilla, which I almost chose myself, also were enjoyed (apologies for the photos though, we started eating before I remembered to take snaps).

Onto the mains. My blazing bird was massive. There was definitely no skimping on meat here which made it excellent value for money. The BBQ jerk sauce didn’t have much kick but was pleasant nonetheless. The meat did get a bit dry in places but not enough for me to feel disappointed. I had a choice of sides to go with the chicken; fries, curly fries or salad. I obviously went for curly fries, the king of the chip. These were great and tasted nice dipped in the BBQ jerk sauce. The accompanying slaw was probably not big enough so felt a little pointless on the plate. The moqueca de peixe, which is essentially a Brazilian seafood dish in a coconut, tomato and lime sauce, had some impressive presentation as the bowl of seafood sat atop a candle in an earthenware stand to keep it warmed and an additional plate arrived with rice and plantain, as well as bits and pieces to sprinkle on top. This dish got the thumbs up and was enjoyed very much. I am tempted to try that on a future visit. My other dining companion said the South American torta was ‘yummy’. Although she opted for fries rather than curly which I have to say didn’t look as appetising but she was happy with her choice.

Cocktails - Las Iguanas

Cocktails – Las Iguanas

We couldn’t fit in any desserts but we did have a look on the menu and there were some good choices along with some boozy coffees if that’s your bag.

We really enjoyed our trip to Las Iguanas and will most likely be back.

Food – 7.5/10
Service – 8/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 10/10

Overall – 33.5/40

Would I eat here again? Yes and get more cocktails!

Cost £65 for three starters, mains and 6 cocktails (one non-alcoholic).

Topolabamba

6th July 2016 6pm

http://edinburgh.topolabamba.com/

The first I’d heard of Topolabamba was a tweet last week saying they were shortly due to open on Lothian Road. I later found out that Topolabamba was already a firm favourite in Glasgow and they’ve branched out to Edinburgh. I was invited with a friend to the VIP launch night to get a nosey. This restaurant, unsurprisingly, has a vibrant Mexican feel. The menu mainly consists of street food but also offers some larger dishes if that’s your bag. Our lovely waitress said although the menu says 3-4 of the street food dishes recommended per person, she thinks 2-3 is more accurate. You even get little pencils to mark out on your menu so you don’t lose track of what you want to order. We went for three each (although sharing the lot between us) and we did struggle in the end to finish it all. However, it was still worth it. So we opted for classic queso  fundido, Jalapeño poppers, Pasilla King prawn tacos, Crispy fish fried tacos, Calamares con morongo, Albondigas con casabel. Topolabamba also has a vast range of tequilas (although we missed the shots being handed out). We ended up getting a watermelon and an apple margarita each. I was a little disappointed their frozen margarita machine wasn’t ready yet as they have a nice mango one on the menu. The margaritas we had were lovely though.

The classic queso fundido was essentially corn chips with a cheese fondue which had peppers and chorizo mixed into it. This was amazing and I could have happily eaten just a giant portion of this. The cheese was perfectly gooey and lush. The jalapeño poppers were large and had chilli cut through the cream cheese rather than a stuffed chilli. It came in a beautiful Bravas sauce. However, these were very hot, at least for my palate, so I had to have a little rest to let my mouth recover before continuing. It was worth it though, although my friend found them a little too large for her liking as she found the cream cheese a little overwhelming. They weren’t exactly ‘popper’ sized.

The King prawn tacos and crispy fish tacos were quite similar but equally lovely. The tacos themselves were a delight, with the Mexican slaw a particular highlight. My friend really loved the crispy batter, as it genuinely was crispy. The prawns and fish were beautifully cooked.

The calamares con morongo were baby squid, stuffed with minced pork, black pudding and ground chorizo  and they were sat in a chilli sauce. I quite enjoyed these. The squid almost acted like a sausage casing but with more flavour. Finally the Albondigas con casabel were  beef and pork meatballs in a casabel cream sauce. These were a big  punch of meat and were delicious.

Tequila Toffee Pineapple - Topolabamba

Tequila Toffee Pineapple – Topolabamba

Whilst I was really struggling to fit in any more food, my friend wanted to try dessert, so we went for the tequila toffee pineapple and got two spoons. If we’d had more space we would have tried the churros. However, the pineapple dessert was perfect; sweet but not sickly so. Pineapple in jelly with flecks of chilli, toffee sauce and cream. Yum.

We both really enjoyed Topolabamba and were already talking about heading back again before we’d even left.

Food – 9/10
Service – 9/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 8.5/10

Overall – 34.5/40

Would I eat here again? In a heartbeat

Cost – complimentary but true cost would be around £50

Please note that whilst thie meal was complimentary, views expressed are my own. Thanks to Billy from Topolabamba for the invite.

Illegal Jacks

2nd September 2015 12.30pm

www.illegaljacks.co.uk

Illegal Jacks previously was situated on Lothian Road and had rapidly become an institution in Edinburgh before it’s untimely demise through no fault of its own. I was pleased to see it was able to re-establish itself elsewhere and in a better location for me. I will declare my interest here as I did contribute to the Kickstarter campaign to get Illegal Jacks back on track.

Burrito - Illegal Jacks

Burrito – Illegal Jacks

I nipped in here at lunchtime with a work colleague. The venue is a fair bit smaller than its previous location. It has a squished service area which makes it perhaps a little slower in terms of service but this leaves a bigger dining area for the customers. We both ordered small burritos. I went for beef chilli with pinto beans, mild salsa, cheese and soured cream (all laid on a bed of rice). My colleague went for the same but with haggis to replace the chilli. I got a refillable diet coke. My colleague had wanted a bottle of water but disappointingly they didn’t have any even though it was on menu. So she opted for a refillable diet coke too.

The end of my burrito - Illegal Jacks

The end of my burrito – Illegal Jacks

I do have to apologise for the poor quality of photos as I managed to remember to take a ‘before’ photo but only remembered to take a photo of the unwrapped burrito when I’d almost completed demolishing it! The burrito is served in foil, which makes it perfect as a take away back to the office or on the way home if you don’t have time to sit in. Unwrapping the burrito and taking the first bite resulted in delicious gooey-ness. The tortilla was nice and soft and the filling was generous. All the fillings were tasty and worked really well. On the other side of the table, my colleague also thought her burrito was nice but the haggis lacked a bit of spice and was a bit sloppy. She couldn’t work out whether it was because she was a ‘haggis snob’ or whether this was a genuine improvement which could be made.

The venue itself is covered in red and black hues with chipboard to make it look all industrial. The best bit for me was the 80s music playing in the background. I couldn’t help but have the odd shimmy whilst eating.

This is a solid return for Illegal Jacks. I am looking forward to trying other menu items on a return visit.

Food 8/10
Service 7/10
Atmosphere 8/10
Value 7/10

Overall 30/40

Cost £18 for two small burritos and two refillable drinks

Illegal Jacks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

El Cartel

2nd August 2015 6.30pm

www.elcartelmexicana.co.uk

Apple and apricot margarita - El Cartel

Apple and apricot margarita – El Cartel

El Cartel is a little Mexican on Thistle Street. As it is small you cannot pre-book so it is a gamble as to whether there will be a table available for you on arrival. Luckily we didn’t have that problem but the place was quite busy. The menu is relatively short but still full of tasty treats, all of which sounded tempting. Whilst there is some choice, the main staple is tacos. We opted for duck carnitas and carne asadas (which came in pairs) and also went for some red rice and bombers, which were jalapeño cheese bites. We also ordered the obligatory frozen margaritas. We both went for the apple and apricot version that was on offer on the specials board (although it was a bit confusing as to whether they were two separate flavours or combined until we ordered).

El Cartel

El Cartel

The food came out quickly. Firstly we got the bombers. There were four of these and were of a generous size. They sat in a small amount of sauce that had a spicy kick to it. I have to say I was expecting cheese stuffed in a chilli, however it turned out to be chillies cut up into the cheese. That wasn’t a problem though as they still had great flavour. Then came the tacos and the rice. The tacos stood in stands, although they were a little difficult to get out and onto the plate without spilling any and ended up being a knife and fork job rather than using hands. That said, these were delicious and my preferred type of taco with a soft encasing rather than a hard crisp type one. They even seemed slightly healthy with seeds adorning them. The duck was crispy and surprisingly went very well with the pineapple, which was charred to give extra dimension. The carne asadas had a bit of spice and kick but the steak was soft and cooked just how I like it. The rice had plenty of flavour and there was more than enough for two. If we had a bit more room in our stomachs we may have taken the option of three sides together.

Service had been speedy throughout but when water was topped up it was done with haste and splashed into the food, which wasn’t the end of the world but a bit of a shame. As all the food came really quickly, we found we didn’t actually spend a great deal of time in here but we certainly enjoyed the food and is great for a quick pit stop.

Food 8/10
Service 8/10
Atmosphere 7/10
Value 8/10

Overall – 31/40

Cost – £35 for two sets of tacos a side and another dish plus two frozen margaritas.

Click to add a blog post for El Cartel on Zomato

Pinto

NOW KNOWN AS BARBURRITO

1st August 2015 – 12.30pm

www.pintomexican.com/menus/shandwick-place/

Pinto

Pinto

I was invited to try out Pinto’s Shandwick Place branch this week. As my love for Mexican food knows no bounds, I scuttled along as soon as I could. When mentioning this to a friend, she said that she loved the Glasgow branch (actually one of two in Glasgow), so that filled me with optimism and rightly so. Pinto has a surprising amount of seating considering it’s relatively small shop front and there were already several customers chowing down on their food. There was also some seating outside should the weather be favourable(!). Mid-way through the restaurant is a serving counter where you order. I was greeted by helpful staff who took my order. I knew I had to try out the burrito. The member of staff serving me explained all the different fillings and options available to create my burrito, including three different salsas catering for an increasing level of heat. So I had a barbacoa beef burrito with rice, pinto beans, medium salsa, cheese, soured cream and lettuce. This was then wrapped up in the customary tin foil to create a delightful burrito parcel. I did ask for a diet coke but they had run out that morning. Whilst a little disappointing, there were masses of other options and it gave me an opportunity to try Coke Life (verdict – not as good as diet coke). To be honest, if I’d gone later in the day, I might have taken advantage of the margaritas on offer. Anyway, I took my food and drink and settled in one of the smaller tables by the window.

Burrito - Pinto

Burrito – Pinto

I unwrapped the top of the foil surrounding my burrito and took a hearty bite and then another and another. This burrito did not disappoint. The tortilla was beautifully soft and the meat was full of flavour. The pinto beans were not too hard or too mushy and gave a good amount of texture to the burrito. The salsa worked really well. The medium option had a lovely little kick without setting my mouth on fire. The soured cream and cheese complemented this, evening out any chance of the salsa becoming the overpowering element. The rice was also very well cooked. I was utterly full after this but in a good way.

The atmosphere isn’t stellar but I wouldn’t really expect anything more of a fast food type establishment. The Mexican music seemed a little awkward (and coincidentally was being drowned out somewhat by a bagpiper across the road). Anyway, I imagine Pinto has a larger demand for take away rather than sit in. This is borne out in the speed in which they are able to complete your order. It was nice to see that they do encourage for you to separate your rubbish for recycling. On the way out, the woman who had served me earlier mentioned their burrito buddy scheme and gave me some cards. Essentially with these, if you bring along a friend and buy one burrito and two drinks, you will get a second burrito free. I already liked place and intended to come back but this just sealed the deal.

Food – 8/10
Service – 9/10
Atmosphere – 6.5/10
Value – 9/10

Overall – 32.5/40

Cost – complimentary but cost for a burrito and a soft drink just over £7

Please note that whilst this meal was complimentary, views expressed are my own. Thanks to Lizzy for arranging.

Click to add a blog post for Pinto on Zomato

Miros Cantina Mexicana

22nd June 2015 – 6pm

www.miroscantinamexicana.com

Frozen Margarita - Miros Cantina Mexicana

Frozen Margarita – Miros Cantina Mexicana

Miros Cantina Mexican is situated on Rose Street and is a relatively small restaurant. That doesn’t stop them making the most of the space and managing to fit in a decent amount of diners, both inside and on the few tables they have outside. This place was packed for a Monday night and it wasn’t all tourists. A group of us had gone for a get together and had a table of four by the window. Before we even looked at the food menu, we knew we were going to make a start on the jugs of frozen margaritas. We went for the plain lime version but you can order flavoured versions which include mango, raspberry and coconut amongst others. These were very good value for money at £20 and we got about 10 small drinks out of each jug. Whilst not overly alcoholic, they were just right to go with the food and we ordered a second jug later in the evening. As a few of us had been before, we knew that the starters were massive, so we decided to opt for two starters between the four of us. We went for a trio of dips with corn chips and some olives. Unfortunately the olives weren’t available so we just got a second lot of dips. For mains, three of us went for exactly the same dish from the specials menu which was steak strip tacos. The fourth (a vegan) went for the vegetable and bean fajitas and it was no problem to remove the cheese and sour cream from the order and they offered more salsa in place, which was nice.

Trio of dips - Miros Cantina Mexicana

Trio of dips – Miros Cantina Mexicana

It wasn’t too long before the dips and corn chips arrived. The corn chips were nice and warm. The three dips were guacamole, salsa and chile con queso, which is a warm cheese and pepper dip. The salsa was fresh and the coriander gave a nice element to it (and even won over the coriander hater at the table). The guacamole was nice but was a bit bland and maybe needed a little more seasoning. However, this could have been because it was sitting next to the most amazing dip I think I have ever had. The chile con queso was delicious. The warmth was a surprise but the taste was so moreish I could have eaten them all night. Everyone managed to polish off all the corn chips with much satisfaction.

Fajita and tacos - Miros Cantina Mexicana

Fajita and tacos – Miros Cantina Mexicana

Onto the mains, the tacos weren’t too over facing in size, which was good. A soft taco (which I prefer to the hard ones which shatter upon eating) wrapped up steak pieces, onions and peppers with a sweet chilli jam, which really brought the dish together. The steak pieces were a little small but it did make the dish much easier to eat. The taco was covered in guacamole and sour cream. The sides of rice and salad were ok but nothing special. The salad was fresh but the rice was a bit lacking. Maybe it was because it had sweetcorn in it and wasn’t as fluffy as I liked. I’ll mark that down to personal preference. Although I couldn’t quite finish mine (I think I was full of frozen margarita by this stage) the other two who had the same dish polished off their plates and left not even a scrap. The vegetable and bean fajitas were enjoyed. It arrived on a sizzle plate and the dips and warm flour tortillas were provided on a side plate.

We didn’t have room for any desserts but there were some good ones on offer, including churros and pineapple kebabs. We weren’t hurried away from our table and were left to finish our cocktails. We all had a great time with lovely food, drink and a bustling atmosphere. I look forward to going back.

Food – 8/10

Atmosphere – 8/10

Service – 8/10

Value – 9/10

Overall – 33/40

Cost – just over £100 for two starters and four mains plus two jugs of frozen margaritas